Don’t quit in hard times, pray all the harder…


Kristen Kelsick, Connor Wolfe, Hannah Carter, Mrs. Lowman and Mr. Winebrenner were leading the LUMC Nicaragua mission team tonight.

Day 7:

Our devotion for today helped us to explore the idea of being joyful versus being negative.  We all know that it’s easy to get down when things get hard or nothing seems to be going our way.  After reading the story in John 4: 4-29, we concluded that it’s important for us to do our best to be positive and look for the joy in all things, just as the Samaritan woman did in this passage.  As we reflected on our trip this week, we were able to find many different things that happened that filled us with joy:  the projects that we worked on, the people that we met, the old and new friends that we spent time with and the opportunities that we had to serve others.  We thank The Lord for the many blessings that we experienced during our visit to Nicaragua.  Many of us felt that this trip was part of  The Lord’s plan to change our lives!

Today was a particularly exciting day…. saying goodbye to our friends at El Ayudante, an exciting adventure on the zip line, lunch at the mall in Managua and a trip to the chaotic market to buy treasures and souvenirs for the people who we want to thank.  Read on to find out more….

Kristen: It has never been easy saying goodbye to the El Ayudante staff as they have become such family to us. We are so blessed to have the opportunity to build amazing relationships with the translators, cooks, cleaning ladies, construction workers and the groundskeepers. Over the last three years, I have had an opportunity to grow a special bond with the bus drivers. Having the chance to learn about their lives outside of work through laughs and poor Spanish/English translating, has made us to become more like family to one another. The relationships we have make our trips to Nicaragua full. Although it was tough saying goodbye, we left promising we will be back next year.

Hannah:  The zip line started off with eagerness to sign in and get our gear on.  There was some hesitation but in the end, almost everyone went through the zip line.  The first leg of the zip line was a little scary at the beginning because the lighter people had to get a push to get them started.  Some people like Hunter, Michael and I didn’t make it all the way to the end, so we had to be pulled in.  The second leg was really hard for me because we had to keep a light grip on the line since it was a shorter distance.  Again, I didn’t make it all the way to the end.  The third leg was the best because some people did superman across the lake.  Superman is when you have your body laid out flat facing the ground.  When they asked Tamara (one of our translators) if she was ready, she kept saying “NO!  NO!” but they said “too bad,” and pushed her off.  We then made the journey back to the top of the hill and headed back to the bus.

Conner:  After eating lunch we went to a local market to do some souvenir shopping. The market was very busy and a little overwhelming for some of us. From the moment we stepped off the bus until we had pulled out of the parking lot, dozens of children surrounded us trying to sell us various crafts and souvenirs. During the hour that we shopped we were able to buy gifts for friends as well as keepsakes to bring home, all of which were very inexpensive. Kristen was able to buy a hammock for just five dollars that was transferred through the window as we were pulling away.

Mark and Chris: Every day that we have been in Nicaragua has truly been a blessing.  One of the best parts of this trip has been our devotional time at the end of the day.  Marlene found the perfect reflection journal for us that gave us a chance to think about things that had happened each day and things that we were thankful for and were able to praise God for.  This journal also gave us an opportunity to think about the choices that we were making each day.  Do we want to be conceited or humble?  Does God want us to show others greed or generosity?  Is it more important to serve others or ourselves? Each day, a different group of people led the devotional time, including daily prayers throughout the day.  The kids and adults alike had a turn to lead our worship time and it was wonderful to find out what everyone was thinking about the experiences that we encountered during the day.  We had many good discussions about the Bible passages that we were reading and how they applied to our own individual lives.  We  can all agree that this time spent together was a perfect way to end the day and help us to grow closer as a team.  It has been a blessing to get to know other members of our church family better.  We are all thankful to the congregation of LUMC for supporting us in this mission as we serve and share God’s love to those we meet in Nicaragua.  This Sunday, we hope that you’ll be able to join us at either the 8:45 or 11:00 service to hear more about things we did this week and the ways that they helped us to grow closer to The Lord.  See you then!



Rejection or Grace

Hola amigos from Annie!

Ready to tackle Cerro Negro.

Ready to tackle Cerro Negro.

It was our last day here at El Ayudante, and it was certainly a good one! For most of us, our adventure started with a beautiful drive to active volcano, Cerro Negro. It was quite a drive but nothing compared to the actual hike. Standing at the bottom looking up at the massive black blob of rock, the climb would’ve seemed terrifyingly impossible. About 45 minutes up the volcano, with rocks of all shapes and sizes, it got a little dicey at times, but the hike was worth the effort. After all of the huffing and puffing and some scary moments, the views from the top of the volcano were priceless. A perfect 360 degree view of the scenic countryside of Nicaragua. Standing about 2,200 feet above ground, you could truly appreciate God’s power of creation and His eye for beauty. However, we needed more than a little faith to get us down the side of the volcano. Moon walking, sliding, boarding, and running, were just some of the various ways the team opted to safely make their way back to low ground. And oh what a relief it was to be back on the ground again, however, no one can deny that the experience itself was worth every moment.


Hola from Megan


Friends forever.

After lunch the team members that sponsored children took those children and their sibling shopping in Leon while the rest of the team did VBS with the HCN kids at El Ayudante. When we arrived at HCN the kids had so much energy that we decided to go outside. We played soccer, baseball, drew on the sidewalk with chalk, played with the parachute, and taught the kids how to play 4 square which they seemed to enjoy a lot. After awhile of being outside the girls decided to go back inside and paint their nails and also some of the team members nails. We had brought rubber bands for the kids so they could make bracelets (Thanks to Mrs. Lowman) and by the end of the day the kid’s arms were lined with bracelets. After handing out coloring books, each kid got their picture taken with a Polaroid camera. They all got frames in which they decorated with many stickers. We soon had to say adios which was followed by many hugs all around.


Hola Amigos from Nikki


Nikki & friends.

Romans 12:13-14 was one of our devotional scriptures for tonight. Verse 13 reads “contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” I’ve had the opportunity to spend most of my time in Mt Sinai this week. It is a community of 33 families and roughly 60 children. I’ve never experienced more humble, genuine, open & loving people anywhere. I spent most of my time playing with kids (not what I expected I’d be doing here, but God always has the best plan) & I can tell you it was fun, heart-warming & this community was anything but ‘strangers.’ We share a bond through Jesus. On my first day, there was a teen boy who stood on the perimeter of the action, watching & looked like he wanted to be included. I made a few gestures for him to join & eventually he did. Today, he initiated a simple game of tossing a ball between us and I think he even smiled! I’ve seen relationships strengthened here this week. I’ve seen relationships begun here this week. And I’ve felt a strong presence of The Lord each & every day. Our team has been united through prayer, through serving together & we are anxious to bring “this” home. It was hard hugging, waving & saying goodbye to these very special people. Some may think it is because we have so much work to do (& there is work to do!) but, for me it is like leaving family. There is indeed a heart connection here & Jesus is The Connector!






Apathy or Love?

Tuesday June 24,2014

Keegan, Ross Stovall, Reid, Joe, and Jessica

We had four teams doing different things throughout the community today. One team stayed at El Ayudante and worked on a bathroom for the staff here, a team went to Mount Sinai to finish working on the house they have been building, a team went to Casa de Tabla for a fantastic VBS and delivering food bags in a nearby neighborhood, and a group visited the prison here in Leon.

Jess tying rebar.

Jessica tying rebar.

Hola!  Me llamo Ross.  y Jessica.  ?como estas? El dia de muy hace calor. (Today was very hot!) Ok, so it’s Tuesday and was another great day in Nicaragua. Today we continued work on the bathroom at El Ayudante for the staff and teams to use while down here. We started off by continuing to make rebar posts and then began sifting sand in order to make mortar for the walls. After about 5 Volcanoes of mortar we then began assembling the walls. After a delicious and filling lunch break that consisted of rice (as always) beef stroganoff, bread, salad, watermelon, and Nica Pineapple washed down with a cold glass of Coca-Cola, we got back to work after a siesta (JUST KIDDING!!! :-)).  Following lunch, we continued to work on rebar making footers for supports for the walls of the

Ross & Hunter mixing concrete.

Ross & Hunter mixing concrete.

bathroom.  We had just enough time to mix a last minute batch of concrete to fill the holes before we had to race off to dinner. After (quick) nice cold showers we got dressed for the beach and a nice dinner on the Pacific Ocean. The whole team, including our translators, loaded up for the beach and we were off.   After about a 30-minute bus ride and dodging herds of cows and motorcyclists we arrived at the beach. We had plenty of time before dinner so we all went onto the beach and rocks for a HUGE photo shoot (Pictures to come), we then sat down for dinner.



Hi, it’s Keegan! I was one of the people that got to go deliver food bags to the nearby neighborhood. Let me



 start off by saying that when you hear about these trips, you usually hear about how touching it is to interact with the locals. Unfortunately for me, I had been working on the bathroom construction every day since we arrived. There isn’t much interacting going on since there are no locals to talk to. We have great hired construction workers and translators, but I was too busy tying rebar with Hunter in a different part of the yard to talk to them.  It was definitely a change of pace

Homes in Antonio Sandino

Homes in Antonio Sandino

for me to go out and talk to the locals and hear their stories. There were two houses that we visited that really stood out to me. The first one was an older lady who was living alone in a small shack. She was really sweet and very gracious when she got her bag of food. When we asked what we could pray about for her, instead of getting an answer that we expected, like family or safety, she instead asked for us to pray for our own mission team. She then went on to tell us about how much she appreciates the work that we do and said that she thinks of us as angels. This was really touching to the me and the others with me because it showed how much she cared. The other part that stood out to me was the last house we went to.  Right before we prayed, a younger man came out from around the corner and asked us to pray for his sixteen-day-old baby boy.  When we finished praying and said our goodbyes, he asked if there was any milk in the bag he could give to his baby.  It stood out to me because we take so much for granted while people in another part of the world are worried about trying to get milk to give to their sixteen-day-old baby.  I ask you to pray for all the people of these communities so they can continue to feel God’s love and grace.

Bible  Story Time

Bible Story Time

Hola, it’s Reid. I had the blessing of being able to attend yet another VBS today. We travelled to a community called Casa de Tabla, about 20 minutes from El Ayudante. Before we even arrived, we became aware of the desperate situation the students at the school experienced. All of the houses in the surrounding area were constructed of cardboard and plastic, and raw sewage ran through the middle of the street.  But despite the

Keegan with a friend.

Keegan with a friend.

environment that they lived in, the students that we met were some of the happiest children I have ever come in contact with. We worked with 56 preschoolers, which was quite a challenge with only a handful of workers and 1 translator.  We started out by singing a few songs, including a Spanish song, “Sapo,” and two well-known American songs in Spanish, “Rather Abraham” and “Hokie Pokie.”  After some singing and dancing we acted out the story of Jesus calming the storm, colored a picture, and had photos done.  Even though this VBS had fewer children than the others, it was definitely more difficult because they were so young.  Each child had to have every sticker picked out and placed on a card for them.  Elsie and I were swarmed by smiling children, not-so-patiently waiting for stickers, which was a blessing in disguise. Lastly, we played a few games with the children, although most of them just wanted to be held. VBS was a wonderful experience because we got to share God’s message with children that may have not heard bible stories before. We also attracted quite the crowd of curios mothers and older siblings, whom we got to share snacks with. And of course our mode of transportation to and from VBS was Mrs. Lowman’s beloved truck ride (with her in the bed of course!).

Mark leads Simon Says.

Mark leads Simon Says.






Beautiful little girls.

Beautiful little girls.









Joe Kelsick

This new cell will house 32 teen boys when it's completed.

This new cell will house 32 teen boys when it’s completed.

Today a team of 9 went to the Leon Jail to provide some food and drink, which was a pastry and juice box to each of the inmates. This was the first time that the Nicaragua mission team visited the local jail. Even after some warnings that the overcrowded conditions within the jail were pretty bad, nothing really prepared us for what we saw while there. There were 407 people currently in the jail, 36 of them were women. In the men’s area, each cell held 25 to 46 people. As you walked down a corridor, on each side the cell bars went from the floor to the ceiling and were filled with faces and hands from bottom to top. With the extreme overcrowding, there were inmates sitting across the floor of each cell. Over them were rows of hammocks (up to the ceiling) where the inmates all peered out at us as we walked through the corridor. The cells were dark and very stuffy with little view of their small interior due to the inmates faces being up against the bars. There were electric lines and laundry lines hanging through the 3 to 4 foot wide corridor. Clothes hung over the laundry line and the cell bars. The team carried trays of pastries and handed them into a single person within each cell who passed them up and back to the other inmates. A couple of the jail personnel assisted with coolers filled with juice boxes for each of them. Through the extremely crowded condition the inmates were orderly in sharing and distributing the food. After feeding the younger inmates in the crowded cells, the team went around the back of the jail to an open air cell that housed the older gentlemen. That cell held about 20 inmates with more room to move around and get some fresh occasional breezes. A highlight to the visit was when Mr P shared his testimony after they asked to hear from the team. After listening intently to Mr P, the “lead” inmate spoke to our team, thanked us, blessed us and then prayed for us. This was an amazing sight to witness. We came to serve them and provide some food for them and they in turn fed us spiritually, sharing God’s love. In spite of their individual reasons and challenges for being in the crowded jail, they assured us that God’s kingdom exists in all parts of the world, in all circumstances. With that, we have hope and pray for each person there.






Early Tuesday Morning

Hi, this is Chuck.  Just a quick note to let you know everyone is well.  The internet connection has been spotty at best – very slow and tends to drop.  We also had some issues with photos which is why you’ve only seen the one this AM.

Today we are working four different projects!  A group is returning to Mt. Sinai to continue to work on the new home.

A second group will continue work on the new bathroom for El Ayudante staff – everyone is excited about this project.  The third group will do VBS at a new community.  And finally, a small team will minister at the Leon prison.

That’s just this morning.

Prayers are welcome as we continue to step out of comfort zone.

Serving Self or Others – June 23



Mission Day 4 here in Leon, Nicaragua. Again it was another busy, beautiful day. Some of us put on a VBS, some continued construction at Mount Sinai, while others worked on the staff bathroom here at El Ayudante. Last, but not least, a group delivered water filters to a community close by. Once again we were reminded that we don’t just come down here to complete projects, but it’s all about the relationships along the way. Romans 12:10 says “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” This was one of our scriptures tonight that we shared during our special time of devotions.


Greetings from Elsie and Holly!

This morning a group of 9 of us went to Pablo Morales to put on a Vacation Bible School. This community was familiar to some of us because we have been there for the past few years. Three years ago we dug a latrine and last year we put on a VBS as well. Even though there is a distinct language barrier between the children and us, laughter was the universal language. Being able to share a smile or a laugh erased all worries of not being able to verbally communicate with them. It is so cool how children here sing some of the same songs we sang as children, like the Hokie Pokie and Father Abraham.   We are so blessed to have wonderful interpreters who connect with the children and have such love in their hearts. One of our interpreters played the guitar while we sang along to these familiar songs. After sharing the story of Jesus calming the storm with the children, we took our traditional Polaroid photos of each child. Seeing the joy on their faces is truly a gift. These children are blessed with three loving teachers. The teachers teach 90 children in a 3-room building. Although they have limited supplies, the teachers did an incredible job of teaching the children their lessons, how to sing songs, the importance of prayer and many social skills as well. What a wonderful gift these teachers are to these children and the community!


Hola from Madison Y Camille!

Yet again the Mount Sinai crew flew down the streets of Nicaragua in the open air bus ready to build a house. Pulling up to the community, we were greeted with smiling, jumping, waving, welcoming, familiar people. As soon as we jumped off the bus, we pulled on our gloves as the hard working community had already started work. Some painted, others sawed, and many dug in the hard dirt (although none of us could compete with superwoman, Marta). While working, many of us couldn’t stay focused as the adorable local children crowded around us. Swooned by the adorable faces several team members went hand in hand with the kids to play baseball, dance and take pictures. The laughs that rang out from both the locals and us, were a loud reminder of the joy that not only we brought to them but that they brought to us. Soon the clouds rolled in and the rain began to fall but that did not stop the play. It only encouraged it! We danced in the cooling rain as the bus headed our way. When the lightning began, we all rushed to get cover in the house were working on. Conveniently, the roof of the new house had just been finished (God moment? We think so). Under the roof we threw the new house’s first “casa fiesta!” The kids, translators and us all danced and sang (in both English and Spanish) to songs familiar to us all…you put your right hand in, you put your right hand out! Once the bus rolled in, we all began our goodbyes, some till tomorrow, some till next year. It was very emotional as we had all made great, lasting connections with kids, families and the local Pastor. This community has truly become a second family to most of us and seeing them again will be highly anticipated.


Hola Amigos! This is Tom Stovall.

Today one of the construction crews (Chuck, Ira, Hunter, Jessica, Keegan, Ross S. and myself) worked on the staff bathroom here at El Ayudante. We accomplished a lot of work on the bathroom itself and we are closing the communication gap between us and our new Nicaraguan friends. Today we made rebar reinforcements for the foundation and cemented these to the foundation. The concrete is drying as we speak and tomorrow we will start laying concrete block. With our translator and the help of Ross we have developed bonds and were also able to meet our friends needs. The El Ayudante construction crew came in flip flops and we were able to supply them with shoes, hats and shirts. These supplies were all donated by wonderful members of our congregation and Keith Carlson a wonderful friend from St. Nicks. Not only were we able to give some of these items to these workers, we were also able to send home shoes and clothing for their families. The smiles on their faces were priceless. I am looking forward to tomorrow. Pictures to follow at a later time . . . the internet connection is very slow here this week!


Side note: The Stovall family will not be surprised to find out how quickly Tom has picked up many Spanish phrases! He made sure to save plenty of time today to “chew the blubbo” (English translation: “Chew the fat”) with his new amigos.


Hello to all of our friends at LUMC! This is Chris Lowman

Another important project that we’ve had the pleasure of working on today was the delivery of 15 water filtration systems to a local community called Anthony Sandino. Thanks so much to our LUMC family for making these water-improving systems possible with their generous donations! The group that we took on this outing included Marlene, Holly, Mark, Nikki, Teri, Elsie, Hannah, Megan, Reid, Erin and me. When we arrived, Mark talked to the locals about how to use these simple systems and how to clean and take care of them, with the help of our translators. We had a doctor with us who works closely with El Ayudante. He selected families to receive these gifts based on their family’s health conditions. We learned that some Nicaraguans live shorter lives because of the damage that pesticides in ground water can have on their kidneys. The families that were given the filtration systems may have had someone who is already being treated for kidney problems. The recipients were so genuine in their gratitude. What a blessing these systems were; the community was so grateful! As happy as we were to make this delivery, we were all truly affected by the amount of people who lived there who weren’t able to have the opportunity to have the water filters. There was one mother who came to the gathering in hopes of finding an extra system for her home. Can you imagine her face when we had to tell her that there weren’t enough? It’s heartbreaking. I found out later that the price of each one is only $28 and it provides clean water for up to five years! It was also difficult to see the conditions that the families were living in. When our LUMC kids built houses out of cardboard and plastic as an activity during 30 Hours of Change, their “houses” seemed unrealistic. Today we saw that people actually live in places exactly like this. Thank you so much for allowing us to have the opportunity to be a blessing to this impoverished neighborhood.

A Beautiful Day to Worship in Nicaragua

If you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond (give generously); Help needy Christians.  Romans 12:8, 13

This is Jeanene:

Today we were blessed to be able to worship with our friends in Mt. Sinai in their beautiful open-air church.  The passion of their pastor was very moving and the congregation was so welcoming which is what we have come to know typifies the people of Mt. Sinai.  The shared spirit of the Lord was such a unifying force; even though we sometimes did not understand the words being said.  As we often see in other countries, the singing and praising were more demonstrative and more vocal than a typical service at home and we were encouraged to join in.  The pastor seemed to connect with each one of us.  He made direct eye contact with each of us and at times waited for our expression of recognition to continue on.  We felt loved and filled with God’s spirit in a way that we sometimes take for granted in familiar surroundings.  During the sermon, the pastor read Romans 12:16; the exact scripture we had studied during our devotion time the previous night.  God is connecting us in ways that continue to reinforce the love we have for this community and the pastor was clearly touched to hear of this “God moment”.  The pastor  then gave us each a small amount of oil to place on ourselves for a blessing.  We accepted this oil with grace and I was so impressed with how our youth responded to receiving this blessing.  What to do with the palmful of oil that remained is a story for another day but let us just say that those receiving handshakes from us after the service were not so thrilled to share in this dilemma.  We followed the service with a rousing round of Spanish Hokie Pokie and an enthusiastic telling of Jesus calming the storm with lots of theatrics by our interpreters and audience participation.  We ended with coloring sheets and individual polaroid photos of each child which they put into a card they decorated.  Our gift of bread and soda for everyone along with donations of toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss for the kids were greatly appreciated (thank you Drs. Smith, Flood and Smith for the generous gift!).  It is always hard to say goodbye at the end of our time there.  The connections our youth have formed with their children is such a beautiful reflection of our church community and the children always seem to need one last hug before we go.


Erin and Caroline

In the afternoon, we were all able to have the HCN kids accompany us to the SportsPlex.  We picked them up on the way out of El Ayudante and were able to bond with them during the bus ride. Once we arrived, they immediately ran off the bus towards the pool. We spent about an hour swimming, jumping, and playing in the pool with the kids. It was refreshing for the both of us. Every child was wearing a smile on their face. We dismissed ourselves from the pool to play a fun game of soccer. The Nicaraguans were showing us how to play, everyone of them could’ve beat us any day. The adults had some crazy saves in goal throughout the match. Most everyone participated in the game. The kids then went and had refreshing dinner with some good ol’ hamburgers and hot dogs. A good way to end an eventful day. We departed back to El Ayudante and said Adios to our friends.



Our devotion theme this evening was generosity.  I have certainly witnessed a great deal of it here in Nicaragua. First, the generosity of our youth.  They devoted so much time to preparing for this trip knowing this would not be a vacation. They work hard and are so eager to share their love with the people here. Seeing them reunited with the children and families of those they have met on previous trips was very powerful. Second, I was overwhelmed with the generosity of spirit pouring out from the residents in the Mount Sinai community. They were so welcoming.  The children were actually lined up waiting to greet us with smiles on every face. Jeanene is right when she says the pastor made eye contact with each of us. We were intermingled with the rest of the congregation but he made a point to speak to each one of us with the passion in his eyes. Lastly, I met a young man this afternoon with a different mission team from Kentucky. He has been here thirteen times and hopes to be here as a missionary after graduating from college. Several in his group had been multiple times with plans to continue returning to serve with a food ministry. Generosity of time and of spirit was evident to me all day.

Greetings From Nicaragua

This blog entry is brought to you by Ross Wolfe, Ira Carter, Michael McOsker and Hunter Voltz!!

After many months of planning, fundraising , and prayer our team arrived at El Ayudante around 1:30 AM Virginia Beach time early Saturday morning. We had a great time spending time together at the Norfolk and Atlanta airports and celebrating Jeanene Wolfe’s birthday.  We are all in great spirits and are excited about what the Lord has planned for us this week.

Ross Wolfe, Ira Carter, Michael McOsker, and Hunter Voltz lead devotion today. The question of the day was…” During the mission trip will I float with the current of CONCEIT or swim Upstream toward HUMILITY?

We read from Romans 12:16 and and went around and talked about what our descriptions of conceited and humble were. We read from Act 8:1-3 AND Acts 9:1-18 and spoke about the important aspects of the story of Saul and how he acted humble toward God when he was struck down on the road to Damascus. And finally to wrap up our devotion for the night, we read Philippians 2:1-11 and talked about the humility of Jesus.


We all had the opportunity to put this to the test as the team split up and worked on two construction sites. One team headed back to the community of Mt. Sianai where teams from LUMC have had the privilege to serve for the last two years. It is amazing to see the progress that has occurred over two years. This is a community of over 30 family’s who were relocated by the government because their previous community was located in an area that was battered by constant flooding. When we began work there two years ago we worked on constructing the school. Last year we worked on the construction of the third house to be built. This year we are working on the 13th house to be constructed. The community is really thriving and they welcomed us back with loving arms and enthusiastic smiles.  One of the local women who we have grown close to wanted a number of us to see the improvements she had made to her property over the last year. We were all touched when she invited us in and hanging on her walls were numerous pictures that had been taken on previous trips of her family and friends and many members from our congregation. There was no hiding the love and friendship that she shares with us and the special place so many of our members have in her families heart. What an awesome experience!


Today the morning started with a great talk by Vanessa, the director of El Ayudante, and the three interns, Brad, Lauren and Lauren. We were told their mission statement and what their plan is for the future. Vanessa talked about how important it was that we were building a bathroom for the staff on the back of the kitchen here at El Ayudante and how blessed she felt for being able to see this dream of her’s come true. Knowing this, I felt really good about starting the construction of that. The group of us, Ross Stovall, Chuck Passarelli, Keegan Lowman, Hunter Voltz, Mark Winebrenner and myself, began digging the footer while the rest of the crew started cutting, tying and assembling the rebar. We called them the shade people because they had the fortunate opportunity to work while being shaded from the heat unlike the rest of us. Our foreman was named David and he had the difficult task of keeping us in line and busy. He and the rest of the Nica crew members made everything look so easy! We sweated a lot but had a good time laughing and joking around with each other. All in all, it was a great first day in Nicaragua and yes mothers, we made sure everyone drank plenty of water and had plenty of sunscreen on!

Michael and Hunter:

It was a late arrival to El Ayudante in the early hours of Saturday morning but we were grateful that we had managed to get here safely. We knew we had a big day ahead of us full of many different events so we all went to bed immediately. When morning came and the roosters woke us up, we were refreshed and ready for the day. Well, most of us were. The group quickly found out that some of us are definitely not morning people until after they have their coffee. After a long day of work we took off for the city of Leon and took a tour of one of the five cathedrals. Seeing the rich history and the beautiful landscape was such an eye-opening experience and all of us made sure to take plenty of pictures to show when we get back! Overall, the first day here was a huge success and with the slight threat of rain, it managed to cool off, slightly, right around dinner time. After devotion many went immediately to bed but some stayed up to play card games and chat about their day.

We hope that all is going well in VB and can’t wait to come back and share all of our experiences from today and the days to come!!



1 day, 14 hours, 55 minutes and 26 seconds

That’s how long we have to wait until the plane pulls away from the gate at the Norfolk airport headed for Leon, Nicaragua

More or less

Not that anyone is counting

All I can say is “YAY GOD!”


Our last wave to our friends at Mt. Sinai last summer.

I was thinking about what to say this evening.  29 people have been working together for months to get all of us to this.  We have prayed and worked and laughed and maybe struggled and cried sometimes – but papa God has been leading us to June 20.  What do I say?

Please indulge me as I borrow something from an earlier post . . .

Jesus cared so deeply about the nations that he poured his life into a handful of men in Jerusalem and Galilee who would one day turn the world upside down.  Jesus cared so much about getting the gospel to Americans in the twenty-first century that he poured his life into twelve Jewish men in the first century.  For Jesus it was always a both/and.  True disciple making here will have an impact on the nations with the gospel.  And vice versa.


I was reading through some journal notes I had taken sometime ago while reading a book called Love Does.  The author Bob Goff was talking about “God’s plan for Bob.”

We are God’s plan, always have been.  We aren’t supposed to be listeners or observers or have a bunch of opinions.  We’re not here to let everyone know what we agree or disagree with, because frankly, who cares?

Tell me about the God you love, tell me about what He has inspired uniquely in you, tell me about what you are going to do about it.

We get to be God’s plan for the whole world by pointing people towards Him.

What does this have to do with Nicaragua?  Maybe everything.  If we believe we are truly God’s plan and we are filled with the Holy Spirit, then why don’t we act like it?  Some people will go to Nicaragua because God has been calling them for some time, and they listened.  Some go to fulfill a sense of adventure or to do “something good” or to put it on their resume.  I believe that regardless of why each of us may think we’re going, it is no accident we are together.  It is part of God’s plan to point people to Him.


We never know who has been observing, listening, wondering what’s up.  Who will we meet at a fund raising car wash, in the airport traveling to Leon, traveling to a ministry site or some time later when we’ve slipped into our routine back home?  We are called to walk with Him – Friday we’ll “walk” to Leon.  Once again I say “YAY GOD!”



The Swanson Family! Day Three


2012 Trip

Greetings all.

I guess you could say this visit is all about relationship building. We just finished a short stop at Mt Sinai to deliver food bags to all the families there. Mabel, Heynerk and Dina all helped pack the bags yesterday afternoon (along with many of the EA staff who are always ready to lend a hand!). This morning we drove the bags out to Mt Sinai and delivered them along with a prayer to each of the families out there. We of course stopped to see Marta first and she came with us to see the rest of the families. As always she is the back bone of the community. Heynerk and Dina came with us today to distribute the food, and even prayed with one of the families – the pastor’s family no less! They did great and it was a good experience for them and for us.

Perhaps the best experience for them was getting to see a brand new litter of piglets. You see them in the picture and if you look closely you will see a red string tied around the foot of one of the babies. That one is the first born and will be given to the pastor in keeping with scriptural teachings on first fruits. Pretty neat. You also see mama pig looking tired but happy. Its Mother’s day here and she just gave birth to 9 babies on this very special of days! (Actually they were thinking she might have one more still on the way, so it may end up as 10!)

We also got to pay a visit to Olga’s house which is the one we worked on last time we were here in December. You can see from the photo she is a hard worker and keeps a neat house. It was amazing how much of a home she has made it in just these few months. Olga was not there but her sister was and they were very glad to see us as we were them.

Mabel did not come with us today because she was helping her Mom get ready for the fiesta tomorrow. We stopped by to help for a couple hours after our trip to Mt Sinai. We did not expect to be doing any manual labor this trip but what they needed done was the vacant lot next to them cleared out. It was some of the hottest, dirtiest and certainly smokiest work we’ve done in our trips down here. But all for a good cause. Apparently they are expecting close to 200 people at Mabel’s birthday party tomorrow so this is “kind of a big deal”. The vacant lot we cleared today will be the main gathering spot for the revelers.

That’s all for now, other than to say it is a blessing to be down here. Thanks again for all the prayers, and please continue to keep our Nica kids in prayer, especially Mabel as she transitions to woman hood.

The Swanson Family! Day One and Two



We arrived in Nica yesterday morning after a near miss on our flight. We had planned on leaving the house at 4 AM. Melissa woke up at 415. It was the fastest 4 people ever got out of the Swanson house, that’s for sure.

Once we got over our self-induced tardiness, God provided a beautiful sunrise and some spectacular views out the airplane of the ocean. We arrived in Nica and saw Eden’s smiling face waiting for us. We didn’t have a translator with us but with Lauren interpreting we still were able to navigate the market and purchase some rocking chairs to bring home.

We unloaded our luggage at El Ayudante and reunited with our 3 kids we sponsor. There were lots of hugs and smiles all around. The kids were especially excited to see Nate with us. Then all of us went to the grocery store-it was pure chaos but wonderful as we purchased groceries for our stay. Since there isn’t an “official” team at El Ayudante this week, we chose to let the staff have some days off and cook for ourselves. We are going to sorely miss Carlos’ cooking while we are here! Lauren keeps reminding us she’ll be back in 2 weeks and able to eat all the watermelon and pineapple she wants for 6 weeks.

Today we visited the prison here in Leon. Mable, our translator, told us the prison we went to was the better of the two here in the area, with less hardened criminals. Conditions are unimaginable inside each of the cells, with more people in each cell than you would think possible. They literally are stacked on top of each other with hammocks one above the other. While most of us were “Martha’s”- busy handing our juice and bread to the 400+ prisoners, Lauren chose to chat with the inmates, quietly developing relationships even in a prison! They greatly appreciated the snacks we gave them and knowing that someone cared about them.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in Nicaragua so El Ayudante had a fiesta for their staff today. We had an opportunity to taste a Nicaraguan specialty drink. It was comprised of milk, corn syrup, and some other ingredients which didn’t really sound appetizing but it truly was delicious and refreshing. Mother’s Day is a national holiday in NIca, so no school or work for anyone tomorrow.

Thank you for the prayers, please continue to pray that we will show God’s love to all the people we meet here.